Lots of people tend to think that assault and battery are the same thing. The words are used together so often that it is easy to believe they are the same crime.
While the two terms are similar, in Illinois, they refer to two different crimes with different levels of punishment.
Battery Means An Offensive Touch
The legal definition of battery is when someone “intentionally or knowingly, and without legal justification, causes bodily harm to an individual or makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.” (720 ILCS 5/12-3).
In everyday language, battery is best described as an unwanted touch. That is a very broad definition.
Battery can be a form of sexual harassment (such as touching a private area of another person’s body) or a violent touch (such as punching someone). It can also be an indirect touch, such as throwing something at someone or snatching something from them.
An interesting thing about battery is that the victim does not have to be hurt by the touch. Similarly, the batterer (the person who commits the battery) does not have to intend to hurt the victim.
Also, if the victim is particularly sensitive and the batterer had no way of knowing that, it does not matter. For example, shoving someone on the subway would not hurt an average person. But, the victim may have a condition which makes them particularly sensitive to pressure, and a shove to that person may cause a bone fracture.
Even though there is no way to anticipate that a small shove would break that person’s bone, the shove would be a battery and the batterer may face civil and criminal liability for it.
Assault Means Placing Someone In Fear Of A Battery
Assault is a separate crime from battery, and it occurs when someone places another person in fear of being battered.
For example, if someone raises a fist to another person’s face, dangles them out of a window, or makes a threat which the victim reasonably believes can be carried out (such as threatening to stab the victim when the victim knows the person making the threat is violent and has a knife in their pocket).
Just as with battery, a person charged with assault does not have to intend to place the victim in fear. They only have to intend to take the action to place the person in fear.
An example is given above about raising a fist to someone’s face. If the person who raised the fist is charged with assault and claims that he was just joking and would never actually punch the victim, he would still be guilty of assault, because the victim reasonably believed he was going to be punched.
Battery And Assault Can Be Elevated To “Aggravated” Charges
Simple battery is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in hail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
The charge is elevated to aggravated battery when it causes severe injury or disfigurement, when it is committed with a deadly weapon or explosive, or when it is committed against certain victims, such as a child or a police officer.
Aggravated battery is usually a Class 3 felony, which can result in three to five years in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.
Assault is a Class C misdemeanor, which can result in jail time for up to 30 days and/or a fine of up to $1,500.
Aggravated assault is assault with a deadly weapon or an assault against a child or police officer. Aggravated assault is a Class 4 felony, which is punishable by one to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
There Are Defenses Available For Assault And Battery.
Assault and battery are serious charges, but there are many defenses available. An experienced criminal attorney has several ways to defend those accused of assault and battery.
For example, an attorney can show that the victim consented to the battery in some cases (for example, if the victim and the defendant agreed to fight each other). An attorney can also argue that it is unreasonable to believe that the victim felt he was in danger of harm based on the circumstances.
There are other defenses available, such as self-defense, defense of property, defense of others, or lack of evidence that may also be helpful in battery and assault cases.
Even if a defendant is ultimately found guilty of battery or assault, an experienced attorney can work with the prosecution to ensure that probation is granted instead of jail time.
Contact Abdallah Law Today
Assault and battery charges are not something that should be taken lightly. These types of charges can interrupt careers, families, and cause people to be mislabeled as criminals.
If you or a loved one is facing these charges, contact our offices today at 312-854-2677 for a free consultation.